- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former two-division titlist Jorge Linares, blessed with enormous talent but a poor chin and tissue-thin skin that cuts easily, is on the comeback trail.
Venezuela's Linares, a one-time prodigy, won belts at featherweight and junior lightweight but never fully lived up to expectations. In 2009, he got whacked in the first round and lost his junior lightweight title to Juan Carlos Salgado in Tokyo, Linares' second home.
He then won four fights in a row before facing Mexico's Antonio DeMarco for a vacant lightweight belt last October at the Staples Center on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson I undercard.
Linares was a heavy favorite and toyed with DeMarco for most of the fight. He was way ahead of DeMarco on all three scorecards going into the 11th round, but had also been severely cut and was bleeding profusely. Between the blood and DeMarco's raging desire to win, Linares got stopped late in the round in an upset.
It was such a dramatic comeback for DeMarco that a rematch was set up, but Linares first took a supposed tune-up fight. The result? He got whacked in the second round by underrated Sergio Thompson in March.
The DeMarco rematch went down the drain, and to many, so did Linares' career. But now Linares, 27, is giving it another go.
Trainer Freddie Roach, who took over as Linares' trainer for a few fights in a pairing that simply didn't work out, is no longer going to be in his corner. Linares (31-3, 20 KOs) is back with longtime trainer Sendai Tanaka as he heads into a scheduled 10-round lightweight fight against 37-year-old former lightweight and junior lightweight title challenger Hector Velasquez (52-17-3, 35 KOs) at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday night (Fox Deportes, 10 ET).
In the scheduled 10-round main event, Japanese welterweight Yoshihiro Kamegai (21-0, 18 KOs), fighting in the United States for the second time, will face Mexico's Jorge Silva (19-2-1, 15 KOs).
This could be Linares' last stand as a relevant fighter. He should beat Velasquez, who has fought many top opponents -- including Manny Pacquiao, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez -- but is just 2-6-1 in his past nine fights. Velasquez is presumed to be on his last legs.
The question is, however, is Linares also?